Your power, my friend, can be blown by the wind

February 3, 2012 12:00 am

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Pennsylvanians can now choose their wind energy suppliers like they choose their corn and cabbage: from local "farms" involved in a new program, ChoosePAWIND.

The initiative, by a coalition of wind production companies, environmental groups and public policy makers, aims to promote the local economic and environmental upside of buying sustainable wind energy produced in the state.

"Pennsylvania's green energy consumers now have a choice, just like when they're buying produce," Katie Bellezza, marketing manager for EverPower Wind Holdings Inc., said during a news conference at Duquesne University, where the initiative was launched Thursday.

"Buying local wind-produced energy supports jobs and the emerging development of alternative energy and encourages a diverse energy supply," Ms. Bellezza said. "This program ... encourages consumers to buy Pennsylvania-produced wind power, not Texas or Illinois wind."

According to the coalition, between 3,000 and 4,000 people were employed directly or indirectly by the wind energy industry in the state in 2010, and wind energy producers pay millions of dollars in wages, property taxes and land lease fees.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the initiative is promoting job growth in a sustainable way. And Audrey Russo, president and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, said wind energy has "clear environmental benefits and clear benefits to our economy" and ChoosePAWIND presents energy consumers with a clear opportunity to support both.

Individuals and commercial and industrial businesses can visit the new ChoosePAWIND website, www.choosepawind.com, and select one of seven energy suppliers offering Pennsylvania-only wind energy.

"Everyone should know they have a choice about where they get their electricity," said John Hanger, former state Department of Environmental Protection secretary, who noted that wind energy produces no carbon, soot or mercury emissions that affect thousands of people every year. "This is a big choice, a tremendously important way to improve Pennsylvania's economy and environment and save lives."

According to the wind coalition, there are 17 wind production facilities in Pennsylvania with a total capacity of more than 800 megawatts that generate more than 2 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year -- enough to power nearly 240,000 homes.

That's still just a little less than 1 percent of the state's energy needs, but 23 new wind facilities are under development and will eventually generate 6.4 percent of the state's electricity.

"We hope that wind power purchases now will help drive the next phase of wind development in Pennsylvania, along with environmental and economic benefits," said Bob White, vice president of AES, a global energy company that operates the Armenia Mountain wind facility along the border of Tioga and Bradford counties in the northcentral part of the state.

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.
First Published 2012-02-11 01:49:42
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